Port Charles is Frustration City

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

As noted last week and confirmed by the passionate reaction in the letters section, there seems to be massive dissatisfaction with General Hospital right now.   And it’s not only the appearance of three new characters with too-familiar faces (played by Kristin Alderson, Michael Easton and Roger Howarth).  The show is frustrating to watch, with too many stories that need quick resolutions or some casting corrections.   I have some ideas on how these stories might be improved.

Roger Howarth, now a blond and annoying mysterioso

1. Identify the mystery character played by Roger Howarth ASAP. The guessing game as to who this sinister blond is has gone on about two weeks too long. Is he Jason?  Is he Franco?  Is he a triplet we’ve never heard of? Is this the return of The Talented Mr. Ripley? The guessing game has gone on about two weeks too long, and it’s more confusing and thus annoying by the day.   We’ve seen him happily meet harmoniously with baddie Heather and let himself in with a key to good girl Sam’s apartment.  Franco, Sam’s rapist, is a ruined character. Would the show really waste a star actor like Howarth on another version of Jason, a character is so identified with the actor Steve Burton (who is now on The Young and the Restless)? Here’s hoping the producers have more imagination.  The beginning of his party on the Haunted Star this week will be a much needed big reveal

2. Who is the father of Britt’s baby?  Tell us, immediately!   Britt’s condition was revealed just about the time Patrick finally revealed his feelings for Sabrina, something we had waited for almost three-quarters of a year.  An instant baby “fathered” by Patrick is too pat a relationship spoiler. Or could Britt really be carrying Dante and Lulu’s baby?  The story is too frustrating to go one for six more long months. Reveal the identity of the baby’s father right away! Please!

3. Review and think about fine tuning the young casting.  Mark Teschner is probably the best casting agent in the soap business, but his choices of late have been disappointing. Jimmy Deshler, who plays Rafe, appears to be incapable of more than scowling, and Bryan Craig, who plays the very central character Morgan (son of Carly and Sonny), seems to be a limited actor beyond his nicely developing young pecs.  Neither seems up to the challenge of carrying a story. GH should bring in stronger young actors now, as summertime is always the season when young soap stories are highlighted.  

Your turn, Thinking Fans. Any suggestions for getting GH back on track? 

General Hospital Has Identity and Condiment Problems

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

The core of watching soap operas is to believe.  Unfortunately, General Hospital viewers had to put that value behind them this week when the show introduced new characters played by oh-so-familiar faces, all with new hair-dos to signify their new personae.  Michael Easton, who played John, is now playing Steven Clay’s brother Silas, who wears a pony tail.  With her hair naturally brunette, Kristin Alderson, who played Starr, is now playing Kiki. Superstar Roger Howarth, formerly known as the infamous Todd, now looks like a chic European supermodel in his dyed blond do, thus equipping him to play an oily character whose nefarious intentions are yet to be shared with the audience.

The GH producers had little choice but to recast the actors, when Prospect Park (the producers of the on-line All My Children and One Life to Live) prohibited them from using the actors as their former OLTL characters. I’m sure it was a hard choice.  They’re betting the loyalty of their audience on it. Will they lose viewers? Probably. Because belief is so fundamental to enjoying soap operas, I think GH will be on the losing end here.

The tricky situation won’t be as bad if the actors can manage to create new characters to go along with their new looks. This is a tall order – all three are strongly identified with their former screen selves. But they’re going to give it a go:  Easton – stuck as he is with his long face, dark gaze and trademark deep voice – is nonetheless trying to be someone new as Silas, the doctor brother of the dead serial killer Clay.  Howarth has used his new look to create someone who is very threatening and, at the same time, very intriguing. His name has yet to be revealed to the audience. Only Kristin Alderson appears not to be working very hard to make her Kiki substantially different from her Starr. Making the situation more confusing is the fact that Kiki is the poker playing girlfriend of Morgan. She used to be the girlfriend of his brother Michael, who at this point, must be very, very confused.

On The Chew: Mario Batali, Jane Ellliot and Michael Symon

However, GH did have a choice in doing a long sequence which promoted its ABC time slot on The Chew.  A. J. Quartermaine (the superbly charming Sean Kanan) pitted his Pickle-Lila formula vs. his aunt’s Tracy’s Pickle-Eddie in a condiment taste-off on air.  What followed was embarrassing mugging by The Chew cast (especially by chef Mario Batali) and even more hopeless overacting by the usually marvelous Jane Elliot, who plays Tracy. As you know the samples were poisoned (most probably by Roger Howarth’s new character) and Liz and Batali wound up in the hospital.

The whole sequence was too broad and over the top and reeked of the desperation of its own network-sponsored cross-promotion.   The story might have worked if so many episodes hadn’t been devoted to it.  In the end, we still don’t know which Pickle-Lila formula is actually better, and the ownership of ELQ is still in question.   Does Tracy own it or does A.J?  We can be reasonably sure we won’t find out any time soon. How much longer can we be expected to relish this interminable relish business?

Jeanne Cooper: An Appreciation

 

Jeanne Cooper

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

This week daytime television lost a great icon and a great lady:  Jeanne Cooper, who played Mrs. Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless for more than forty years, passed away on Tuesday at 84.

There was no character like Mrs. Chancellor.  She was brought on six months into the show’s run in 1973 to be the spoiler in the romance of the nubile Jill Foster and the handsome older man, Phillip. Good news for fans, but bad news for the lovers: Mrs. Chancellor was a formidable woman who didn’t want to let her husband go.

Tough as she was, in the capable hands of an outstanding actress like Ms. Cooper, Mrs. Chancellor was no ogre. We were shown all sides to this very flawed human being.  She always wanted to take a drink, and Ms. Cooper made you understand that unquenchable thirst. She never wanted to be left alone, and Ms. Cooper made you understand that awful loneliness, too.   She wanted to be loved by all who were closed to her: husband Phillip, son Brock (who called her “Duchess)” and best friend Nikki, to whom she always acted the role of loving mother.

But woe to those who drew her scorn!  Enemies Katherine and Jill became legendary for their constant fighting.  Ms. Cooper was good in scenes with Brenda Dickson who originated the role of Jill, but absolutely great with Jess Walton, who became a legend unto herself as the equally tempestuous and vulnerable Jill.

Jeanne Cooper’s great achievement in soap acting was to keep the character interesting and challenging for four decades. From first broadcast to last in every scene in which she appeared, Katherine was the one we watched.  She definitely was one of the most understandably human characters in the history of daytime.

Off screen, Ms. Cooper was constantly human, too.  In her autobiography Not Young, Still Restless (It Books) published last year, she admitted her own tendencies to alcoholism and detailed her many affairs.  Yet, she wrote most convincingly that her best and most cherished role was mother — she had three children (including L.A. Law’s Corbin Bernsen) and six grandchildren.

Jeanne Cooper and Mrs. Chancellor will be much missed.  The Young and the Restless has planned a special episode in their honor for May 28.  We wouldn’t miss it.

The 40th Annual Daytime Emmy Nominations: Some Killer Choices!

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

What do you think of the 40th Annual Daytime Emmy nominees?  The list is long and illustrative given the fact that there are only four soaps.  Several categories are full of names that are most deserving. It would be very hard to cast a decisive vote should one have the opportunity.

Katherine Kelly Lang

Consider the lead actor category:  You’ve got an actor who created a real splash in General Hospital this year, Jason Thompson, who was brilliant as his Patrick Drake mourned the death of his wife Robin.  Then you’ve got the always dependable actors in the category — Peter Bergman (Jack, The Young and the Restless), Doug Davidson (Paul, Y&R) and Michael Muhney (Adam, Y&R).  Although Muhney is a great personal favorite of mine, I don’t know who did the superior job of all these outstanding actors.

Then there’s lead actress:  Who can beat Susan Flannery, who played Stephanie’s march to death so memorably on The Bold and the Beautiful? Or Heather Tom, who played Katie’s post-partum depression, also on B&B? Also excellent as was Days of Our Lives’ Peggy McCay who played Caroline’s Alzheimer’s suffering so skillfully.  Formidable, too, is Y&R’s always dependable Michelle Stafford (Phyllis), who also shone in that category.  Again, who to vote for?

For Best Supporting Actress, I’d definitely cast my vote for first time nominee (it’s about time) Katherine Kelly Lang of B&B, who played Stephanie’s best friend Brooke so beautifully and soulfully through Stephanie’s fabulously written final story. Here is an actress who has grown incredibly since her debut on the show 25 years ago, and definitely deserves recognition, not just for this year but for her long body of work.

And what about Best Show?  Can anyone beat GH, which had one of the best years in its history?  On the other hand, it’s hard to top B&B, with its brilliantly produced stories of Katie’s post-partum depression and the death of Stephanie.

Talk about killer choices. With only four surviving soaps contributing nominees, the work the voters had to choose from is all exciting and memorable. No matter who wins, the quality of all the nominees argues persuasively for the future of network soaps. Here’s hoping TPTB are paying attention.

This year’s Emmy Award ceremonies will be broadcast June 16 on HLN.